Net Neutrality Work-Arounds; Cutting Cords, Any Cords!

By Paul Maxwell Report Archives
Cover image for  article: Net Neutrality Work-Arounds; Cutting Cords, Any Cords!

So you’ve got a MVPD subscription -- whether cable, satellite or telco -- plus broadband access and you’d like to watch video on some device or another … but you don’t know what exactly you’d like to watch and you don’t really feel like surfing 7,842 channels and web sites to find out what’s on and/or available. What do you do? Panic? Hope whatever MVPD or broadband provider you have gets smart enough to produce a guide that actually, uh, guides? Well, there are already a few gleams in the gloom out there.

One comes from TiVo where the soon-to-move-upstairs CEO Tom Rogers has helped craft the TiVo Bolt. (FYI: After succeeding in making TiVo relevant, Rogers plans to semi-retire into the Chairman spot early next year.)  At any rate, the TiVo Bolt is arguably the best program info source out there now. The bad news is that it only works with cable (so far). It does, however, make it almost easy to find out what’s on and what’s available. Think of it as one pretty smart box that explores linear and streaming services in one place with only one remote.

Alternately, you could wait for Molotov to take off.  A French start-up, Molotov attempts to marry elements of schedules, streaming and social media, sort of like a Facebook + Google + TV Guide for the digital era.  Nice idea, I suppose.  Founder Jean-David Blanc did something like that for cinema and sold it to Canal Plus so he knows something about starting a company and making it work.  If it takes off in France, he wants to do the same thing here.  Odd name, though.  But it has moved me to go drink a cocktail.

That’s better than worrying too much about everything coming via fading linear models or what’s available from one or another of the proliferating streaming services.

Random Notes

Remember Net Neutrality?  The Federal Confusion Commission’s Title II move was supposed to make certain that no one entity could get away with “buying” special access to the Internet or to broadband customers.  But one should never underestimate the innovative abilities of businesses … just this last couple of weeks two new video distribution ideas have been introduced that, at first blush, seem to be loopholes in Title II. 

T-Mobile’s Binge On allows for video data streaming to customers with no impact on their data plans … in other words, free wireless streaming over T-Mobile’s cellular network.  The idea has been blessed by the Chairman of the FCC as (apparently) the work-around doesn’t favor any particular streaming source.

At the same time, Comcast Cable has begun the system-wide rollout of a mini-bundle called Stream that, even though it uses Internet Protocol to stream to customers, doesn’t use the spectrum in Comcast’s infrastructure dedicated to Internet use. Ergo, no violation of net neutrality. Wonder where the next loophole will pop up, and who will be there to exploit it?

Bloomberg BusinessWeek published a nice graphic showing the some 11.5 million or so broadband-only households how much it might cost to even get half way to the 17 or so channels most households watch.  Meanwhile, James Murdoch told an industry event, "Bundling has become this bad word ... but it's economics 101 … it drives prices down and drives consumption up.”  So that’s its problem!

Speaking of cutting cords, did Jeff Bewkes cut his subscription to The New Yorker?  In the magazine’s November 23rd edition, The Financial Page’s James Surowiecki argues that Time Warner should spin off Home Box Office into its own public company.  “Spinoffs,” he wrote, “don’t always make sense.  If there were real synergies between HBO and the rest of Time Warner, the case for keeping it would be stronger.  But those synergies are hard to find …” He ends with, “This is an era of radical uncertainty in the media business.  But Time Warner can be very certain about one thing: In HBO, it has an asset that’s worth close to thirty billion dollars in a spinoff.  Time to cut that cord.”  Wonder if Jeff read it?

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